Despite foes, Gonzaga to have Desmond Tutu speak at commencement
Despite criticism that he does not back Catholic teachings on abortion and gay marriage, Archbishop Desmond Tutu will deliver the commencement address at Gonzaga University next month, university officials say.
The Associated Press
SPOKANE — Criticism from social conservatives will not prompt Gonzaga University to rescind an invitation to Archbishop Desmond Tutu to serve as a commencement speaker in May, school officials said Thursday.
More than 700 Gonzaga alumni, staff, faculty and students signed petitions protesting the Nobel laureate's speech and the university's plans to give him an honorary doctor of laws degree.
They said they objected because some of Tutu's social views contradict Catholic teachings, including his support for abortion rights and gay marriage.
But the Jesuit institution has no plans to cancel Tutu's visit, spokesman Pete Tormey said.
"He's definitely coming to speak," Tormey said.
A statement from the college highlighted the Anglican cleric's fight against apartheid in South Africa and said the college is honored Tutu accepted its invitation.
"We are privileged to welcome a world-renowned Christian leader and social rights activist whose faith-based lifelong dedication to the cause of justice so clearly resonates with our work as a University," the school's statement said.
Critics circulated a petition that contends "Gonzaga has chosen prestige over principles and popularity over morality" in selecting Tutu.
Gonzaga law graduate Pat Kirby wrote a letter to Gonzaga President Thayne McCulloh complaining of Tutu's views. "It goes against Catholic teaching and so much of what Gonzaga stands for, or at least should stand for," Kirby wrote.
Kirby said he respects Tutu's work but objects to "honoring him as a commencement speaker and giving him a degree."
In a letter posted online Thursday on The Gonzaga Bulletin, McCulloh defended the choice of Tutu.
"Desmond Tutu's life has been dedicated to advancing the cause of peace through reconciliation, and justice through Jesus' own instruction," McCulloh wrote.
Tutu was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 1984 and Albert Schweitzer Prize for Humanitarianism in 1986. He has worked to battle AIDS, tuberculosis, poverty, racism and sexism.
After hearing of the petition against Tutu, a group called Faithful America launched a petition drive urging Gonzaga not to rescind the invitation. The group has gathered more than 11,000 signatures in support of Tutu.
"But that doesn't matter to the extremists who've been waging a McCarthyist campaign of fear and intimidation on Catholic college campuses across the country," Faithful America wrote on its website.
The group previously fought efforts to have Notre Dame University rescind an invitation to have President Obama speak on campus.